Autism affects nearly one out of every 110 children,
according to the CDC. That's more children diagnosed with autism than with diabetes, cancer, and AIDS combined. Yet a cure
has yet to be found, and formal autism treatments are limited. So many parents
are trying autism diets and supplements they've heard about
from other parents or the media.
But can a child's diet really have an effect on autism or other autism
spectrum disorders (ASD)? And which nutrients or foods offer promise to...
One in 150 children is now affected with ASD, according to the CDC. Because
ASD is on a spectrum, many children are mildly affected, with less severe
symptoms. So the behaviors that typically point to ''classic" autism may
not be as pronounced or may be absent, says Paul Shattuck, PhD, an autism
researcher at Washington University in St. Louis.
Further complicating things, autism is often accompanied by other problems,
such as gastrointestinal ailments, hearing impairment, or behavior problems.
"Autism often comes with something else," Shattuck says.
The age at which ASD is diagnosed can vary greatly, says Shattuck. In some
children, he says, the disorder is apparent at 18 months. "You just
know," he says. With other children, the autism diagnosis may not be
confirmed until age 5 or so.
Parents can educate themselves about the typical symptoms, realizing that
not every child has all the same symptoms or the same severity of symptoms. In
general, children with ASD are socially impaired, may have language or
communication difficulties, and exhibit some unusual behaviors, such as
avoiding eye contact, resisting changes in routine, or declining to cuddle or
have other human contact.
Parents who pay careful attention and who know what to look for can become
aware of certain "red flags" that demand immediate professional
attention, even if they don't turn out to be ASD symptoms, according to the
American Academy of Pediatrics. Among them: the child arches his back instead
of snuggling when picked up; doesn't make much eye contact, or loses language
or social skills at any age.
Pay attention, too, to everyday interactions, Shattuck says. A toddler who
never wants to be held, for instance, is a warning sign and something to talk
to your pediatrician about as soon as possible. If language skills seem to be
lagging, that's a concern. A 15-month-old, for instance, should be able to say
single words; a 24-month-old should be able to say two-word phrases.